In this part of the New 52 review, I’ll be talking about the “Dark” titles, which are the name DC has given its supernatural, horror, weird, scary, what have you, titles. Next time I’ll cover the Superman and Green Lantern titles, and then we’ll wrap it up with the Batman line. So, here we go, with THE DARK.
Demon Knights – Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert
So a demon, a witch, an immortal and a sexually ambiguous magical knight walk into a bar… It sounds like the opening of a bad joke, but is in fact the very entertaining setting for Demon Knights, a medieval adventure featuring Etrigan, the titular Demon, as well as his partner Madame Xanadu and a host of other DC legends from long ago. Etrigan and Xanadu, having escaped the siege of Camelot together, find refuge at an inn that just happens to be in the way of Mordru, an evil sorcerer who has no qualms about killing a newborn baby or two in order to divine the future, and certainly doesn’t mind razing to the ground anything that gets in his way, including our heroes. This book looks to be a lot of fun, and something different from the usual fare, so it definitely gets my vote. Recommendation: Keep Reading
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. – Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticelli
This book, on the other hand, does not. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., which features the “Creature Commandos,” who are essentially super beings based on classic movie monsters, working for a secret government agency to fight various dark things, seems to me to be little more than a clone of Hellboy, and if you like this sort of thing, you should probably read that instead. If you can’t get enough Hellboy, or you have nostalgic fondness for the Creature Commandos, you might enjoy Frankenstein. Not for me, though. Recommendation: Pass
Swamp Thing – Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette
In the beginning, Swamp Thing was a guy named Alec Holland, a scientist who invented some kind of super plant food. Terrorists wanted Alec’s invention, presumably for some Fern-based world takeover plot, and blew up Alec’s lab with him in it. He ran into the swamp, and emerged the muck-monster known as the Swamp Thing. He was big, mute, and fought crime in the Louisiana Bayou. Kind of fun, horror type stuff, but not really enough to carry a whole book. Then, the holy messiah of comic books, Alan Moore, descended from the Heavens and told us Swampy’s true origin: Swamp Thing was not, in fact, Alec Holland, but the collective consciousness of the various plant organisms that ate Holland’s corpse after his dying body landed in the swamp. He was not a man who had become a plant; he was, in fact, a plant who falsely believed he was a man. This groundbreaking concept launched a new era in comic books writing, and expanding the idea to reveal that this plant creature was actually a plant elemental who had existed in some form for time immemorial only enhanced the concept. In the New 52, Alec Holland is somehow resurrected, and people (re: Superman) don’t seem to get the idea that he never was the Swamp Thing, who Holland bumps into in the final panel. I don’t know if I care for this re-reimagining of a sacred comics cow, but the writing and art is strong, so I’ll stick around a little while. Recommendation: Issue by Issue
Resurrection Man – Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Fernando Dagnino
Resurrection Man is Mitch Shelley, who, due to some kind of secret government experiments, can come back from the dead. When he is killed, he returns moments later, with powers based on how he was killed. The first issue follows a disturbingly similar path as The Grifter, with a somewhat disoriented Mitch ending up on plane where supernatural forces attempt to kill him. Like Cole Cash, Mitch and the otherworldly beast out to get him end up diving out of the plane. Unlike The Grifter, Mitch dies on impact. Because he can. I’m not sure quite why we care though, and if you want to read about a troubled soul who has the forces of the heavens (hells?) out to get him, I recommend you pick up some back issues of Preacher. Recommendation: Pass
Justice League Dark Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin
Justice League Dark opens with Madame Xanadu, a sort of female Dr. Strange who it seems will be the focus of the “Dark” portion of the DC Universe (For extra fun: If you ignored my recommendation and bought Resurrection Man, compare the last page of that book to the first page of JL Dark. They seem to immediately follow one another). The central crisis of this book seems to be that the Enchantress, a witch, seems to be losing it, with our reality suffering the consequences (Think Scarlet Witch-House of M, for you Marvel fans). The real Justice League tries to rein her in, but due to their vulnerability to magic, it’s not working out too well. Who can save the world? Justice League Dark! They’re not really called that, thank God, but they consist of a group of “underheroes” whom Madame Xanadu assembles to fight a growing evil that she cannot fully explain. They include Shade, the Changing Man, whose M-Vest allows him some reality-altering ability of his own, which he mostly uses to resurrect his dead girlfriend, John Constantine, who, that terrible Keanu Reeves movie aside, is a pretty bad ass ghostbuster, and Deadman (possibly Zatanna and the Enchantress, if she can ever get her act together, as well). Just as Justice League seems to be the cornerstone of the New Justice line of titles, this one looks to be the anchor for the Dark titles, so if you want to keep up, you’d better keep reading; but don’t worry, Milligan/Janin is an incredibly strong team, so you shouldn’t be disappointed. Recommendation: Keep Reading
Animal Man - Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, Dan Green
The “British Invasion” of music was headlined by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who. The British Invasion of comic books featured Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison (although Morrison is Scottish). Grant Morrison earned his place in the pantheon with his take on Animal Man, a deconstructionist romp that refused to stay locked within the confines of the traditional comic book panels. Since then, just about everything possible has been done with Animal Man. He’s had his family killed and resurrected, he’s lost his powers, he’s been rocketed out into space. Now he’s back on Earth, managing trying to resume his super hero career with the demands of a family. Frankly, I’m A-Manned out. I don’t love the art, it’s a little too “pop” for me, and the story, while sufficiently creepy, and climaxing with A-man’s daughter summoning a bunch of dead animals to play with, just doesn’t get my motor running. Recommendation: Pass
I, Vampire – Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrentino
Well, it wouldn’t be a dark line without a vampire, right? This particular vampire tale features Andrew and Mary, vampire ex-lovers, disagreeing strongly on the place of vampires in modern society. To wit, Mary thinks they should rule the world, whereas Andrew thinks they should all be exterminated. This is clearly too big a problem for couples counseling, so instead they both go off to try to get their own way, Mary by forming a vampire army, Andrew by trying to be a one man slaying operation. Doesn’t look good for Andrew, does it? Recommendation: Issue by Issue
Okay, that’ll do it for the seamy underside of the new DC Universe. Back up into the light next time with the Superman and Green Lantern Titles.